Monday, July 16, 2018

Don't Be Defined By Your Past

Whichever translation of the Bible you use, Ephesians 2 begins the same way. It is a description of "you" (it's actually the Ephesians, but it applies to you). The different versions use different words, but they all have the same meaning:

NIV - "As for you, you were"
NLT - "Once you were"
ESV - "And you were"
NASB - "And you were"

The opening thought is about the life you once lived, your past. The picture Paul paints of the past isn't pretty, he says we were dead in sins.

Verse four is the exact opposite. Paul takes his eyes off us and puts them where they ought to be, on God"

NIV - "But... God, who is..."
NLT - "But God is..."
ESV - "But God, being..."
NASB - "But God, being..."

The contrast is between how we acted (dead) and who God is (merciful). The lesson is obvious. No matter what evil exists in your past, God's mercy extends to it. No matter how much wrong you may have done, God's love covers it. No matter how much blame you place on yourself, God is bigger.

Today, take a minute and remind yourself of this powerful truth:

What I've done before
Is not who I am anymore
Not because of my good deeds
But because of who God is!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Rescued For Free -- But At How Great A Cost?

Have you been paying attention to the soccer team and their coach who are stranded in a cave in Thailand? As of this morning, almost all of them have been rescued and everyone is hopeful that the last two will be saved soon. This rescue operation has been incredible to witness as hundreds of people from many different countries have bonded together to find and retrieve this group of young men. 
Professional divers are swimming through caves (sometimes so tight the have to remove their equipment and pull it behind them) for 4-6 hours just to reach the boys. One-by-one the boys are being carried out in a return journey which takes as much as 9 hours! I have no idea how expensive the entire effort has been, but I know there has been great cost.
Consider the price for the hi-tech equipment, the diver's equipment, the vehicles, the vehicles, the communication devices and whatever other items might be used. In addition, the full amount of time being spent by professional divers, soldiers, volunteers and others will likely never be known. The greatest cost to this point has been the life of one rescuer, who ran out of oxygen because he wanted to be sure the boys had enough.
No expense has been spared to accomplish for these boys what they could never accomplish for themselves. Every one of these boys has been carried from death to life at a cost they could never afford. And they will never be asked to repay their debt, this is a gift which has been freely given. Imagine how grateful these boys and their families will be for the rest of their lives!
How much greater is the free gift we have been given? We've not been saved from a cave or physical death, but we have been saved from our own sin and eternal death! How grateful should we be? How should that gratitude overflow into every area of our life?
Ephesians 1:6 - to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Give Me Jesus...

We just wrapped up week 2 of a new Ephesians series at The Gathering. During this series, I've been sending a couple emails out each week with some devotional thoughts on the passages we are studying. If you'd like to receive these emails, click here to sign up.

Here are my thoughts from today:

In the first 14 verses of Ephesians, Paul wrote the phrase "in Christ" (or something similar) at least 12 different times. Every time I read through these verses, I am impressed at how important Jesus was to Paul.

I want Jesus to be that important to me. I want to understand every part of my life through the filter of Christ. I want my actions, my thoughts, my plans, my hopes, my hurts, my expectations, etc. to be wrapped up in Jesus.

I am reminded of some of the words from a Jeremy Camp song:
In the morning, when I riseGive me Jesus.You can have all this world,Just give me Jesus.
I'm also reminded of an ancient Irish song/poem known as St. Patrick's Breastplate. It's a great anthem by which to live one's life:
Christ with me,Christ before me,Christ behind me,Christ in me,Christ beneath me,Christ above me,Christ on my right,Christ on my left,Christ when I lie down,Christ when I sit down,Christ when I arise,Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,Christ in every eye that sees me,Christ in every ear that hears me.
Praise be to the Great I Am!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Changing Diapers and God's Grace

*I wrote this many years ago (Liam will turn 19 this month). I came across it while doing some personal study on the topic of grace. The sentiments are still true.

Grace is like changing diapers. No matter how often it happens, or how bad the mess is, I still change Liam's diapers. This, in spite of the fact that he has done nothing to earn it.

The reason is because I look on him with favor.

God's grace can be defined as his unmerited favor toward us. Being a recipient of grace (through Christ) means that God looks on me with favor, regardless of what I do.

Liam's worst diaper cannot begin to compare to the stench of my sin before God. Yet, he continues to look on me with favor. He provides for me. He guides me. He has a future for me. None of this is merited, but it is all given me because I am in Christ.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Grace and Peace to You.

Ephesians 1:2
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace
In the New Testament, “grace” almost always is another word for “gift”. Everything God gives us is a demonstration of His grace toward us. We deserve nothing, yet He gives us everything. In the same way, grace should characterize all our relationships with others. We should be gift-giving people. Our gifts may not always be material, sometimes our gifts may simply be time or lending an ear to a friend. Even presence can be a great gift when someone is walking a difficult road.

Peace
We are at peace with God because of His grace to us. Once we were His enemies, now we are His daughters and sons. Likewise, grace is the key to peace in our relationships with those around us. When we are willing to look past the shortcomings of others (as God has looked past ours), we can experience full peace.

You cannot experience peace until you’ve experienced grace. Today, because of Jesus, you can be at peace with the maker of the universe. You can be free of guilt and shame. You can face tomorrow with joy, hope and confidence. You can know that whatever this brief life holds you will spend eternity in the glorious presence of God your Father. This is PEACE and it is yours because of God’s GRACE.

You cannot live at peace until you’ve extended grace. As people who have been given grace, we must be people who give grace. A peaceful life will be the result. 

Read more about GRACE and PEACE here:




Monday, June 25, 2018

God's Will vs. My Will

Ephesians 1:1
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:

Paul was sold out to God's will. He was willing to do whatever, go wherever and be whoever God wanted Him to be. As a result, he found himself traveling the world, sharing the good news of Jesus with everyone he encountered. Everything about his life was shaped by God's will rather than his own.

One of the greatest temptations we face is to spend all our time and energy telling God what we want Him to do, how we want Him to provide for us and where we want Him to take us. Unfortunately, life never goes well when we are trying to impose our will on God. One of the best decisions you can ever make is to live your life according to God's will instead of your own.

Read More about God's Will:

Faith Is Focusing On God's Authority, Not My Own Ability

Commandment One: Nothing Shall Compare To Me

Thursday, May 24, 2018

4 Questions For Better Bible Study

Studying the Bible can be overwhelming. It's not always easy to know exactly what we should be learning when we read. We can become discouraged and give up  looking into God's Word. Before discouragement sets in, consider 2 Timothy 3:16.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for
teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

Because Scripture is "God-breathed", we have confidence that it is truthful and we know that it is authoritative. Because we are promised that "ALL" of it is profitable, we must apply it to our lives. I like to use 2 Timothy 3:16 as a template for Bible study. Paul's four "profitable uses" of Scripture can provide us with FOUR QUESTIONS which will SIMPLIFY and ENHANCE our BIBLE STUDY.


God's word is profitable for teaching. It tells us what is right.

Question One: "What am I presently doing that I should continue doing?"

God's Word is profitable for reproof. It tells us what is wrong.

Question Two: "What am I presently doing that I should stop doing?"

God's Word is profitable for correction. It tells us what we need to change.

Question Three: "What am I presently doing that I should be doing differently?"

God's Word is profitable for training in righteousness. It tells us what we need to add.

Question Four: "What am I presently not doing that I should begin doing?

Next time you sit down with your Bible, ask yourself these four questions and see if you don't discover a practical "next step" along your spiritual journey.